10 Red Flag Questions from Tenants

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After a while in the landlord business, showing rental properties to many tenants, you tend to hear some of the same questions and statements again and again. The screening process is alive from the moment you first speak with your new prospects until the leases are signed and the money is paid, so you must keep your eyes and ears open for clues and telltale signs of whether your prospect is the right tenant for your rental. Some of these questions can alert you if the tenant may be targeting you for a possible lawsuit concerning certain legal or housing issues.

10 Red Flag Questions or Statements that Should Worry You when Screening Tenants

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    “We can have my wife sign the lease. Her credit is OK.”

  2. “Why do you need our credit reports? That doesn’t tell you what good people we are.”
  3. “We’re moving because our landlord is a jerk.”
  4. “You won’t need a security deposit with us. We’ll take good care of your home.”
  5. “I’m an attorney and more than qualified to rent your house. By the way, I found 3 illegal questions in your rental application.”
  6. “Wait till you see the place when we’re done with it. You won’t recognize it.”
  7. “What is your policy concerning drugs?”
  8. “Are utilities included? I had a little dispute with the electric company.”
  9. “Do you declare your rental income on your taxes?”
  10. “Would you mind giving me the key so we can just put a few boxes in there today? I’ll have the money next week and we can sign the lease then.”

There are lots of “red flags” to watch for. What kind of “red flags” have you picked up in your landlord travels?

Source: The Landlord Protection Agency, Inc.

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Ask the Attorney – Crazy Judge

ask-the-attorneyThe Landlord Protection Agency®presents John Reno, Esq.,a highly experienced Landlord – Tenant attorney based on Long Island, NY.

Q:  Dear Mr. Reno:

There is what we consider a squatter in our rental house. The Judge considers him a tenant because he moved in and had the electric and water turned on in his name, unauthorized. We were told to go through the eviction process as if he was a tenant, which we did. At Court, the defendant lied under oath saying that he paid rent and did repairs to the house. He had no proof. He also said it was dangerous for him and his 3 babies to live there because the electrical breaker would sometimes shut off. The Judge ruled in his favor and said he could live there for the rest of his life if he chose to do so.

Can we move into our own house to do needed repairs while the squatter is there?
Thank you ever SO much!
Jacqueline, Texas

A: The judge said what? This is the most bizarre thing I’ve heard (this week.) So he said he paid rent. So he’s a tenant- with no lease. He gets a 30 day notice- then back to court.

Legal Disclaimer
The Landlord Protection Agency’s “Ask the Attorney” column is for informational purposes only. The questions answered by Mr. Reno on this site do not constitute an attorney – client relationship and are not to be considered legal advice. Not all questions will be answered and some may appear in the LPA Q&A Forum.
The Landlord Protection Agency recommends that you seek legal advice before using any of the material offered on this web site, and makes no guarantee on the effectiveness, compliance with local laws or success of any of the material offered on this web site. The Landlord Protection Agency is not engaged in rendering legal advice.

Why are Certified Funds required in Real Estate transactions?

Close up of hands giving house model to other hands with money.What are certified funds?  I’m buying/renting real estate and the company wants me to bring “cash or equivalent” or “certified funds.” Why can’t I just write a personal check?  The money is there!

Relax! The purpose of this blog post is meant to give a simple explanation of why “certified funds” are required in your real estate transaction and how to acquire and present them to the real estate office.

Certified funds are just that. They are a form of payment that is guaranteed (or certified) to clear, be valid, and are non-revocable.  When making certain types of transactions, such as real estate transactions, it’s required that the payment method used will satisfy the contractual obligations. To do this, certified funds will be required, usually in the form of:

Specifically, personal checks are NOT allowed, as the account may not have sufficient funds or they can be cancelled. Credit cards are NOT allowed, as the transaction may later be disputed or reversed. Checks sent by a bank bill payment service are NOT allowed, as they are the same as personal checks.

Simply put, once certified funds are issued, they cannot be recalled or cancelled by the bank.  The bank that wrote the cashier’s check or money order must by law, honor and pay the amount due in the document.  Therefore, it is the same as handing a person the equivalent amount of funds in cash.

Cash is, well, cash. It is absolute funds, and value has is transferred immediately to the holder.  There is no issuing bank to recall the funds.  It is the absolute transfer of value when given from one person to another.

1Personal checks, on the other hand, must “clear” the issuing bank before the payment is deemed absolute.  This could take as long as a week or more.

Certified funds are required because it assures that the funds are good, valid and present at the closing of the transaction and release of keys.  A closing is set for a certain day and if, for example, a personal check is presented, the company will have to wait at least 10 business days before giving the seller or landlord their proceeds.  If the seller or landlord does not receive their proceeds for weeks past the closing date, well, the parties have not really closed on the agreed upon date, right?  Therefore, keys cannot be released to the buyer or tenant. In order to ease this issue, certified funds are required so that proceeds may be disbursed to the seller/landlord, commissions to agents, etc. Real estate is a major investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and can potentially cause all parties stress; however, certified funds give the assurance that funds are good and will clear to let money and keys go to the various parties entitled.

Where can I get a certified funds?

Here are some of the top places to get a certified funds, beginning with the cheaper options, that you may use as a guide.

  • Walmart: The big-box store offers money orders from MoneyGram, a money order provider, at a cost of 70 cents each for values up to $1,000.
  • Money transfer agents: You can buy money orders from companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram at convenience stores, drugstores, supermarkets, check-cashing outlets and elsewhere. The Western Union money order fee, as an example, is around 99 cents; charges vary by location. Single money orders are usually limited to less than $1,000.
  • U.S. Postal Service: Money orders to be sent within the United States are $1.20 for up to $500; $1.60 for amounts over $500 up to $1,000. There’s one exception: Military money orders, issued by postal military facilities, are 40 cents. An international money order with a value of up to $700 costs $8.25.
  • Banks and credit unions: Financial institutions sell money orders for around $5 each, with values typically up to $1,000. They often waive fees for customers with premium accounts.

5 Habits You Didn’t Know Were Essential for Landlording

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There’s no such thing as landlord school.

Most landlords just do a little reading online and dive right in. Which is fine – but it also means many new landlords are ill-prepared for the work of being a successful landlord.

Far too many landlords fail to bring a level of professionalism to their landlording side gigs. Sure, this can lead to some irked tenants, but the person who suffers the most is the landlord — in the form of shoddy returns.

My partner and I teach a property management course to mom-and-pop landlords. Here, we again and again return to a few simple themes. Most of these themes revolve around prevention, discipline, and staying several steps ahead of the irregular-but-expensive events that ruin returns.

Here are five habits that landlords need to develop if they want maximum profits and minimum headaches!

Related: How to Be a Landlord: Top 12 Tips for Success

1. The Unflinching Enforcer Mindset

A few months back I analyzed whether you should keep your home as a rental or sell it when you move. The first thing I talked about? Whether you have the disposition and discipline needed to be a landlord.

Tenants will push against your boundaries. Your job as a landlord is to firmly and professionally defend those boundaries.

That means enforcing your lease agreement — to the letter.

Rent doesn’t come in on the first? Send an unofficial late-rent reminder. Rent doesn’t come in before the legally-mandated grace period ends? Send an official eviction-warning notice.

They still don’t pay after the required waiting period? File in court for eviction.

You’ll get sob stories, often with literal sobbing. Many people bend and give their tenants leeway — and then they give some more leeway.

If you do this, you train your tenants to believe that the rent is not their most urgent bill. So why would they ever pay it on time when they have other bills they need to pay in which excuses are not an option?

Enforce your lease agreement and your tenants will know that they can’t get away with whatever they want. They’ll know the rent is their highest priority because you will enforce the late fee and evictions.

If you can’t do that, you will lose all credibility with your tenants. You’re better off investing your money in a REIT.

2. The Discipline to do Recurring, Scheduled Work (Even When it Doesn’t “Feel” Necessary)

Landlords have monthly, semi-annual, and annual work they should be doing.

As we discussed above, every month you need to stay on top of your tenants about rent. Set reminders on your calendar if need be. Every six months, you need to inspect your rental units. Semi-annual inspections should be written right into your lease agreement.

It doesn’t feel urgent. It’s not a frantic midnight phone call about a burst pipe. So, most landlords don’t do it.

But again, it comes down to setting expectations with your tenants. Send a loud, clear message that you care about the property, you care about the lease terms, and (if you do it right) you care about the tenants.

Check that they don’t have unauthorized people or pets living there. Make sure they’re keeping the property clean. Confirm that they’ve changed the air filters.

And use that face time to build more of a relationship with your tenants: Ask about their jobs, their kids, their lives.

Then, every year, you need to raise the rent. Many landlords wring their hands and fret about it, but the alternative is allowing rents to fall below market value — then hitting your tenants with a too-drastic rent hike all at once.

Related: I Asked Landlords for Their Best Tips: Here Are 6 Recurring Secrets to Success

3. Budget Like a Business (Because You Are One)

As a landlord, you’re a small business owner, whether you think of yourself that way or not.

The expenses involved in owning a rental property are largely hidden, because they’re irregular (but big when they happen). Expenses like turnovers, repairs, vacancies.

Here’s what rental property cash flow looks like visually – smooth periods, interrupted by huge spikes in expenses.

What does that all mean for you as a landlord? It means you don’t want to be that chump standing there with his jaw hanging open asking: “How am I supposed to pay for this $5,000 roof bill?!”

Here’s how: by setting aside money every month for these potential expenses. In a word, by budgeting.

And while we’re at it,if you ever want to retire with your rental income, budget your personal finances too. What’s the point of all the hard work building (and managing) your rental portfolio if you’re just going to turn around and spend it all on new shoes and dinners out?

If you want to get ahead, both as a landlord and as a person, get comfortable (and disciplined!) with your budgeting.

4. Think Long-Term to Vanquish Vacancies

Turnovers are where most of the work and costs involved in being a landlord lie.

You’ll have to repaint the unit. Maybe re-carpet it. You’ll have to go through and fix all the little things that the outgoing tenants either messed up or just lived with. Then there’s the lost rent, even as you continue carrying the costs of owning the property.

In other words, you have to spend money that you wouldn’t have had to if the tenants had stayed.

Then there’s the stress and headaches and work of advertising for new tenants, coordinating with contractors, screening tenants, signing a lease agreement, doing move-in and move-out inspections, etc. It’s labor. If you have a property manager, they’ll charge you dearly for that labor.

Speaking of tenant screening, your goal is not fill the unit as quickly as possible with an acceptable tenant. Shift your thinking to the long term, and instead make it a priority to fill the unit with a high-ROI, low-maintenance, long-term tenant.

You want someone who will be low-impact and treat your property with kid gloves. Someone who will pay the rent on time every month so you don’t have to chase them. Someone who will stick around for the long haul so you don’t have to worry about all the costs and headaches involved in a turnover.

5. The Meticulous Mindset: Records, Documentation & Attention to Detail

I’m just going to say it: If you’re not the anal-retentive type, hire someone to manage your rentals who is.

You need to be exacting in your record keeping, your documentation, and your attention to detail. For example, did you walk through the unit before your renters moved in to document the condition with them? Did you both sign the condition statement? Did you take photos with timestamps of every room from every angle?

Then what did you do with the photos and documentation? Is it stored securely on your computer or in your file folder where you can access it at a moment’s notice?

I’ll stop beating this horse; you get the idea. Active landlording is not a good fit for the laid-back and leisurely. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a property manager if you don’t have this meticulous personality type – the important thing is the self-awareness to acknowledge the bad fit and outsource your property management.

You’re in Business — Be Professional

Effective landlords have effective habits, that revolve around thinking long-term and embracing minor headaches today to avoid massive headaches tomorrow.

Keep a friendly but professional distance from your tenants; they’re your clients. Set a budget for expenses like you’re a professional, because you are. Set recurring reminders on your professional calendar, and then follow through actually execute them!

Catching a theme here? The landlords who succeed are the ones who bring professionalism to their rental management.

And if you can’t be professional, hire a professional.

Source: Bigger Pockets

Top 5 Mistakes Landlords Make with Their Investment Properties

1Managing an investment property is no easy task. It may sound like big money, but if you are not prepared it can turn into a huge money pit. As a landlord, you have a big responsibility to the property as well as the tenants. One small misstep could end up costing you valuable time, energy, and money. That is why you must make sure you do your homework before jumping in. Do as much research as possible. If you look up the latest real estate trends in the area or ask a local expert, you will be able to find enough information to help you make the best decisions when it comes to your investment property. Unfortunately, many landlords want to get started so quickly that they do not think before they invest. Here are the top five mistakes that landlords make with their investment properties:

1.Choosing the Wrong Tenants

This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a landlord. If you are renting your property out to a stranger, you must take the extra steps needed to make sure you get the best possible tenants in your property. If you do not know them very well, there are certain precautions you can take. Have them prepare the following:

a) Application Form: Have prospective tenants complete a written application form. This will include standard renter’s information such as names, numbers, employer, previous residences, income, etc. Each adult who will be living in the property would need to fill one of these forms out and minors can be added as well. They would sign that all the information they provide is accurate to the best of their knowledge.

b) Credit and Background Checks: Tenant screening is a great way to see how financially stable your prospective renter is. Credit reports often show if someone has been late on payments and the amount of debt they already have. A background check is very important, not just for your peace of mind, but also in consideration of the neighborhood. You would not want to rent the property out to a convicted criminal. It would compromise the safety of the area and could also bring down the property values.

c) Referrals: Asking for referrals from past landlords and current employer is a great way to go the extra mile in finding the perfect tenant. If the applicants have not be great renters in the past, then they probably would not move forward with their application if referrals are needed. A referral from an employer would also give you confidence that the tenant is gainfullyemployed and able to make a monthly payment.

2. Failing to Create a Thorough Lease Agreement

Creating a good lease agreement is where part of your research will come in handy. Many landlords will print the first form they see on the internet. Unfortunately, this form could be outdated and only relevant for a certain location. Make sure to find an application that has all your stipulations and current local regulations spelled out. Some tenants will comb through the entirety of the agreement to try to catch something that the landlord missed to exploit it. For this reason, it is very important that you create a thorough lease agreement. Be sure to add any rules specific to your property in an addendums section.

3. Lack of Communication

If you make yourself unavailable to your tenants, you are doing them and yourself a disservice. Your office should always be open and you should always be available by phone. Sometimes, home emergencies will come up and your tenants will need your ‘okay’ or your help to get the issues resolved. It can range from something small, like a door coming off its hinges, to something huge, like a flood or leak in the plumbing. The sooner you can get back to your tenants, the better for them and you. The longer you let an issue go, the more difficult it will be to fix a problem and the more resentment your renter could have for you. You want to make sure that your tenants have a good experience so that they are not criticalof you to future renters. This is especially important this day and age where you can review anything and anyone on the internet.

4. Setting the Rental Rate Too Low or Too High

Make sure you are setting the rental rate within the correct range for the property’s age and location. There is such a thing as setting the price too high and too low. If the rent is too high for the area or for how old the property is, no one will want to live there. The longer your home sits unoccupied, the more money you are losing each day. In the same vein, you do not want to set the rent too low. You may be able to get someone into the home quicker, but you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. The whole point in taking on an investment property is to make money. The best thing you can do is look at other rental properties in the area. Try to stick within the range of rental pricing you see in the neighborhood.

5. Delaying Eviction Process

If you do find yourself in the position of having to evict a tenant, try to get the process started as soon as possible. You can expect it to take about 30 days from start to finish, but many times, it is delayed because tenants will come up with excuses. As soon as you can tell there is a real issue, you should begin the process. The longer you wait to get it rolling, the longer it will take. The longer it takes, the more money you will be losing. It is important to note that the tenant is still legally obligated to pay the back rent owed to you. However, if a tenant has opted not to pay rent up until this point, you may be out of luck trying to collect it from them in the future.

Being a landlord is a tough role! If you avoid these common mistakes that most people make with their investment properties, you should have an easier go at it. The main thing to remember is that the more research and preparation you put into renting out your property, the more return you will see on your investment.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Is an Evicted Tenant Still Liable for Rent on the Remaining Months of a Lease?

ask-the-attorneyThe Landlord Protection Agency®presents John Reno, Esq.,a highly experienced Landlord – Tenant attorney based on Long Island, NY.

Q:  Dear Mr. Reno:

Thank you Mr Reno for taking my question. Once an eviction takes place, what is the status of the Lease Agreement as it pertains to lost rent? Is the evicted tenant still liable for lost rent for the remaining months of the Lease?
Charles, California.

A: Yes, yes, yes, the tenant is liable for the remaining months- but there’s a catch: Once you re-rent, you no longer can claim damages for lost rent. So you have to wait until you re-rent so you know how much to sue for.

Legal Disclaimer
The Landlord Protection Agency’s “Ask the Attorney” column is for informational purposes only. The questions answered by Mr. Reno on this site do not constitute an attorney – client relationship and are not to be considered legal advice. Not all questions will be answered and some may appear in the LPA Q&A Forum.
The Landlord Protection Agency recommends that you seek legal advice before using any of the material offered on this web site, and makes no guarantee on the effectiveness, compliance with local laws or success of any of the material offered on this web site. The Landlord Protection Agency is not engaged in rendering legal advice.

13 easy ways to stay on your property manager’s good side

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Property managers would be lying if they’ve never had times where relationships with tenants have broken down. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our friendly team sees your happiness and comfort as a priority — it’s just as important to us as keeping our landlords happy.

So forget previous bad experiences, harsh landlords or unreasonable property managers. We’re extending the olive branch and starting again — these 13 tips will help you understand what we expect from you and why relationships can sometimes become strained. Help us out with these aspects and we’ll get on fabulously. Plus, we’ll be able to give you a great reference when you decide to move on from your current property.

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1. Pay rent on time.

We know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many tenants pay rent late. Want to stay on our (and your landlord’s) good side? The easiest way is to set up a direct debit and pay rent on time every month!

 

2. Be polite.

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Being polite and calm really does go a long way and we’ll always respond with the utmost courtesy too. After all, we’re at work and we want to represent our company in the best way possible. Do some property management companies suck? Absolutely.  But why would anyone want to go above and beyond for someone who is just going to yell or be impolite? When an issue seems to linger, try to see our viewpoint — we’re dealing with hundreds of tenants and landlords which require us to prioritize the urgency of each issue. Often we are addressing the issue, but simply waiting for your landlords response, approval, or payment or waiting for an opening in the maintenance contractors schedule. Honestly, we’re doing our best and also want to get things resolved as quickly as possible! A little bit of kindness and understanding will help you get the resolution you require quicker.

 

3. Listen to our instructions.

You might not believe it, but we know a thing or two about houses! Watch and listen when we show you how to trip a beaker or turn a gas valve off. Everything we say is to make your life easier and our job smoother.

 

4. Be our eyes and ears.

We have to take care of many properties and we won’t know about any problems or issues if you don’t tell us. The earlier you can inform us of a problem, the quicker we can sort it and the less likely it is to escalate.

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5. Tell the truth.

Lease terms can be forgotten or accidents can happen — we understand that kids, friends and even you can make mistakes, and telling us the truth will help us get the problem resolved as soon as possible. After many years in the business, we’ve heard all excuses and we can spot a lie a mile off.

 

 

6. Leave a message.

On the rare occasion we don’t answer your call, please leave us a message, drop us a text, or send us a quick email rather than calling again and again. We may be in a meeting, at a showing appointment, on the phone, or with other clients and unable to answer at the time. We we will respond back as soon as possible.

 

7. Understand we have a lot going on.

Just like everyone at work, we need to prioritize our workload around the urgency of each issue. If we can’t deal with your problem immediately, it doesn’t mean we don’t care — it may just be that someone else has something bigger we need to worry about. We’ll communicate with you as much as possible, so you know why we may be delayed in sorting your problem out.

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8. If you get in a bind, talk to us.

Did you lose your job? Has your flatmate gone off the deep end? We want to know what’s going on and we want to help — don’t think you’ll be in trouble! It won’t help if you put your head in the sand and hope whatever problem you have will go away. Speak to us and we’ll help you address it and get out of any sticky situation. Communication is key!

 

9. Treat the property and the people who do work for us with respect.

We love knowing that our tenants are looking after our properties — a clean tidy damage-free house at inspection time is a sure fire way to get into our good books. And there’s nothing better than hearing from an electrician, plumber or other trades-person that they encountered a lovely tenant.

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10. Work with us.

You have a busy schedule, we have a busy schedule — let’s work together and make everyone’s lives easier. Trust us, we want your problem resolved because we have a dozen more to deal with! Where you can, work with us on times and arrangements. We hate to disturb you but we’ll be done and out of your hair as soon as possible.

 

11. Trust us.

We only ever want to enter your home for a legitimate reason upon prior approval from you — we’re not going to steal your stuff or mess with your things! We have our reputation and real estate licenses on the line.

 

12. Follow the rules.

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We don’t set rules, we’re simply paid to enforce them. Each state has Landlord-Tenant Laws designed to protect the rights of both parties in the lease: the landlord and the tenant. The terms of the lease are not merely made-up by the property manager, but rather established and enforced by the state’s Landlord-Tenant Laws. The state governs when rent is due, when late fees are assessed and what amount to charge, how much notice to give before moving, a landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities, among others. The lease constitutes a contract. When you sign a contract, you agree to all those rules, so don’t ignore them once you’ve moved in. Good tenants and good landlords respect contracts, and good property managers enforce them. After all, it’s our job to return a landlord’s property to them after a tenancy in the same way it began.

 

13. Respect your neighbors.

Try and put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes — would you appreciate a loud party the night before your final exams or a major presentation at work? No, you wouldn’t! Respecting others is a key part of living on your own so be as considerate as you can and, if you mess up, an apology can go a long way.

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With a little give and take, we can keep our relationship strong and you can have a much more enjoyable and relaxing time in your rental home. We know we’re not always perfect, but we’re just doing our job as best we can.

Source: Harcourts